Caña Brava is the highly anticipated light rum from from the 86 Co. (Simon Ford, Dushan Zaric, Jason Kosmos, Malte Barnekow, and Kris Roth). This is supposed to be a rum akin to the classic Cuban rums of old–perfect for classic cocktails. Let’s take a look and see how the spirit does on its own.
The one liter bottle is quite tall—designed by bartenders for bartenders; this one is ergonomically perfect, allowing a secure pour from the bottle end or just below the shoulder. On the back side of the bottle are marks that indicate the volume remaining—quite a nice feature, especially for the on-premise folks. The label features an antique style font with a sequence of phrases that describe its journey to the glass.
Caña Brava hails from the Don Pancho’s Las Cabras distillery in Panama, where they use local molasses to make the aged rum from which this is blended. The three-year rum is blended with older rums, and then filtered. The high-proof rum is shipped to Charbay in Northern California where it’s proofed down from 94% to 43% and bottled.
In the glass, Caña Brava is not water white, but maintains a hint of straw yellow color from the oak barrels in which it was aged. A swirl in my tasting snifter produces an extremely thin ring atop the glass that yields numerous droplets that with time begin to descend.
The nose is mildly astringent, and the first aromas I detect are of molasses and grass mixed with dried fruit. Breathing deeply now I am getting dark cherry and a hint of orange. There’s also a briny quality that is evocative of the seashore—somewhat similar to a rhum agricole.
Granted, this is a mixing rum, but here we’re tasting it straight to explore its subtleties. The first sip is bright, but not ‘hot’; the mouthfeel is a little thinner than I imagined it would be, but it’s doing a good job of coating the palate nonetheless. The briny quality I noted above the glass is persistent, reminding me of the grass from whence it came. There is also a fair amount of sweetness, and now as I continue to taste, I recognize a dose of vanilla and black pepper followed by a trace of orange and dark cherry. Digging even deeper there is a hint of fig followed by a burst of fine cacao nibs. Stopping to evaluate the finish, my palate is now completely awash in the spirit, and I enjoy the lingering freshness of the grass notes combined with vanilla and cacao.
Caña Brava definitely delivers on the promise of a premium classic mixing rum. The light straw color hints at its complexity, and the flavors deliver far more than the typical “rum as vodka” light rum.